Half of the things that happen in Hallmark movies happen to me. I get stranded at airports and in small towns. I am from a small town. I confide in my mom. I confide in my mom because I don’t have a boyfriend – according to her and only her. I once had a job that left me with some money but no social life. I love Christmas. I eat sushi alone, at a restaurant, on a Friday night. Okay, that last one is because I live in Hong Kong where such scenes are totally normal. But on zero occasions did any of these scenarios lead to romance or even an encounter with someone I fancied.
Once Upon a Prince is another reminder of how my life always starts out like a Hallmark movie but never makes it past the first scenes. Like Susanna Truitt (Megan Park), I also worked at a garden supply store and had my car break down on the highway, but unlike her, a handsome prince didn’t come help a sister out. No, it was just me, the semi-retired lady, and the sexually aggressive frat boy loading topsoil and price checking suet cakes and, when the car died, just me and the brother waiting for AAA.
But it’s difficult to begrudge Susanna for her good luck and Prince Nate (Jonathan Keltz) for his because the two of them are so damn sweet. I feel bad for poking too hard at this fantasy even though I could easily harp on the movie’s formulaic plot, its bland storytelling, and its lack of compelling characters. In fact, Once Upon a Prince may be one of the least outstanding entries in the American girl marries British-adjacent royal genre. Others are memorable for their leading (and actually British) stars or for their wacky narratives, but this movie bets on two likable leads and their sappy, subdued romance.
Susanna is a landscape artist from Georgia who undersells herself and Nate is the soon-to-be-crowned-king of Cambria who wants to be treated like a normal dude, and both are really nice people who deserve good things and each other. Both are portrayed by actors with a calming onscreen presence, and I am here for a mild love stories every now and again. I’ll gladly take another Hallmark movie in which Park and Keltz play polite lovers if that means there’s one less Lacey Chabert movie out in the world (sorry, LC fans).
That’s because Susanna and Nate aren’t the usual glamorous, slightly out of place duo one finds in these films. Instead, they have a fresh appeal that is genuine and without ego. They don’t make many enemies, which leaves the movie without much of an antagonist. Nate’s mom, The Queen (Sara Botsford), opposes the match, but her son’s going to be king so it doesn’t really matter what she thinks. On-again, off-again Cambrian girlfriend, Lady Ginny (Marlie Collins), surprisingly keeps her distance too, even though she’s primed to stir things up.
That leaves the other supporting characters, dulled by their steadfast love and support for the couple. Susanna’s family have all but adopted Nathan as their new in-law, and though the prince’s body man (Charles Jarman) is a bit more wary, he remains firmly in his charge’s corner. Duty is all that’s left to get in the way, and even that offers little in terms of narrative tension. Who needs story though when you have two nice people in love? And a prince.
Dir: Alex Wright
Writer: Tracey Andreen
Cast: Megan Park, Jonathan Keltz, Kayla Wallace, Charles Jarman, Colleen Winton, Sara Botsford, Marlie Collins, Frances Flanagan, Jake T. Roberts
Time: 83 min
Country: United States